Saturday, September 20, 2008

Housing downturn takes toll on job rolls in other sectors

Unemployment continued its climb in Inland Southern California in August and is approaching the level of the 1990s, when the area was reeling from the loss of two major military bases.

The jobless rate in Riverside and San Bernardino counties rose to an estimated 9.2 percent last month from a revised 9 percent in July, the state Employment Development Department reported Friday. Unemployment in the Inland area was 6.4 percent a year ago.

Unemployment in July was first estimated at 8.9 percent, and has now been revised to 9 percent. It got as high as 11 percent in 1993. (Any bets on how high it will be this time??)

"All of this is about housing," Inland economist John Husing said. "The mortgage market has set up this chaos on Wall Street."

Ed Milson, a self-employed masonry contractor from Mentone, was forced to shut down most of his operations in the spring. Jobs used to bring him between $20 and $25 an hour, but he said now all he can find is stopgap work paying less than half that much.

"The slowdown just hit us hard," said Milson, 57, who was looking for alternatives at a job fair in San Bernardino earlier in the week sponsored by state and county agencies. "We had a couple of jobs that went south and we couldn't keep it going."

There were an estimated 166,500 unemployed people in the Inland area last month, compared to 114,500 in August 2007. The jobless rate is the highest for any August since 1995.

Local governments in the Inland area trimmed 7,000 positions from its payrolls in August, and Husing said this was the latest blow from the housing meltdown. Sales tax revenues are down because fewer people are buying the big-ticket items, such as furniture, major appliances and barbecues, that are usually associated with home purchases.

"The discretionary budget of cities is heavily dependent on retail sales," Husing said. "Now it's a new fiscal year and cities are cutting back."

"This high unemployment rate means these people are not going to be spending much money, and if they're homeowners it means it could be the next wave of people looking at foreclosures," Adibi said. "This slowdown is not hurting companies as much as it is the self-employed."

And in related news.....

Weekend Warrior RV manufacturer goes out of business

Weekend Warrior Trailers Inc., which in 2005 had 1,000 Inland employees, has gone out of business, an official supervising the company's liquidation said Friday.

The demise of Weekend Warrior makes it the second large Inland recreational vehicle manufacturer to go out of business in less than a year. National RV, also based in Perris, shut down in November. A smaller company, Ontario's Alfa Leisure, closed its doors in the spring.

Owner Mark Warmoth said in July that he'd closed two of Weekend Warrior's four factories, and that the company remained in trouble. He blamed poor economic conditions that have hurt the entire industry.

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